At 11, West Bengal’s Vicky Roy ran away from his home with dreams of becoming a movie actor. The stark reality of living in an unknown city hit him after he reached Delhi, but there was no going back.

“I remember how I started crying at the thought of being completely alone in this big city. What will I do, where will I go was all I could think of. I was so scared,” he says.

Raised in an impoverished family with six siblings, Vicky could not receive an education. He was also sent to live with his grandparents where he was punished for the smallest of mistakes.

When he couldn’t take it anymore, he ran away. He soon joined a group of ragpickers, but after six months, he took a job as a dishwasher in a small hotel in Paharganj.

“It was around that time when I met Sanjay Srivastava, who changed my life forever,” he says. Sanjay helped him get in touch with an NGO called Salaam Baalak Trust.

In 2000, Vicky saw two boys being given an opportunity to visit Indonesia for a workshop as part of their photography course. So he decided to pursue that.

The trust gave him a camera worth Rs 499 with three rolls a month — a huge deal at the time. “Suddenly carrying a camera made me kind of important and gave me respect,” he says.

That break came in 2007 when he had his first solo exhibition ‘Street Dream’ in New Delhi. A mirror to Vicky’s inspiring journey, the exhibition became a turning point in his life.

“Street Dream is more like a self-portrait. I captured images of children of the age that I was when alone. To my surprise, the exhibition did very well and was appreciated by big photographers. That really helped open many doors for me,” he adds.

A year later, the US-based Maybach Foundation approached him to photo-document the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre in New York.

This led to many exhibitions in India and across various countries like the UK, the US, Singapore, Germany, Sri Lanka, Russia, and Bahrain.

Vicky says that his personal struggles and the life around him inspire his art. It is no wonder that his poignant photos have the power to speak to the audience.

“Life and learning go hand in hand and neither should stop. What keeps me going is honestly the lack of fear. Despite it all, I don’t have anything to lose. Everything that I got is a blessing, something extra!” he smiles.